‘Tainted’ Sopeng sits on LNDC board

KANANELO BOLOETSE

MASERU –Beleaguered Post Bank’s chief of credit Themba Sopeng, who was suspended in February for alleged fraud involving M6 million, remains one of the directors at the Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) – a highly regarded parastatal.

Sopeng was appointed to the LNDC board of directors in September 2017 by the then Minister of Trade and Industry Tefo Mapesela on the basis of his skills, knowledge and experience in matters relating to the functions of LNDC.

LNDC is charged with the implementation of the country’s industrial development policies and is the first point of contact for foreign investors intending to set up projects in the manufacturing and processing industries in Lesotho.

Ministry of Trade’s Principal Secretary (PS), Soaile Mochabe, who is the chairperson of the LNDC board refused to comment yesterday when Public Eye contacted him.

Trade minister Habofanoe Lehana, on the other hand, also indicated that he could not comment because he has not yet received a formal report from the board’s chairperson.

“I will have to talk to the board’s chairperson first and get a formal report, it is only after then that I would be able to talk,” Lehana said.

In March last year, Mapesela dismissed the then Trade Ministry’s PS, Thebe Mokoatle, from the board maintaining that as a minister he was empowered by the Lesotho National Development Corporation Act of 1990 to appoint or dissolve the LNDC board without giving reasons.

According to media reports, the alleged fraud Sopeng was suspended for involved a M6 million which was purportedly transferred from a Post Bank account belonging to Meriti Holdings on January 23, into an account belonging to Teboho Construction held with the First National Bank (FNB) Lesotho.

This allegedly happened after Meriting Holdings had just submitted a new shareholding structure to the Post Bank and changed signatories for their account.

The money was withdrawn from the FNB account within two hours after it was deposited.

Addressing a press conference after Sopeng’s suspension, Post Bank’s Managing Director Molefi Leqhaoe indicated that since the matter involved theft and corruption, it had been reported to the police and the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offence’s (DCEO).

“The disciplinary action is also going to be taken for every member of staff suspected to have been involved in the scam,” Leqhaoe said.

He also revealed there were five other employees of the bank who were suspected to be involved in the scam.

Lesotho Post Bank is the only wholly Basotho-owned bank which the government, through the small business development ministry, has been using in a bid to empower aspiring Basotho entrepreneurs.

Leqhaoe has always urged small businesses to open accounts with the Lesotho Post Bank to access the much-needed business loans at reasonably low interest rates.

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